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20130607 SISD-Teach-of-the-year-Melissa ClarkeMISSION — Melissa Clarke, a second-grade teacher at Lloyd and Dolly Bentsen Elementary in Sharyland Independent School District, said the first time she was in front of a class, she knew she was home.

Clarke was recently named SISD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year.

She graduated from a bible college in Pennsylvania in 1985. She thought she would then go into teaching, but she got married, moved and had kids. She decided to stay home and raise her children and go wherever the family led her.

It wasn’t until years later she found herself in the McAllen area, divorced, with nothing to do. She didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a job.

Clarke tried working in a law office as a secretary, a job she said she stunk at. She stayed until her probationary period was up. Co-workers continually told her she should be a teacher.

It was then she decided to get her alternative education and teach.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher all my life,” said Clarke. “It just took me years and years and years to get me to that point.”

Clarke started teaching at Bentsen Elementary in 2005, and it has been her home now for eight years.

“There’s nothing else I could imagine myself doing,” she said.

She feels that every student is one of her own and treats them as such.

Clarke said her biggest accomplishment is her students. She teaches them to read and sees how that helps each one of them. She loves seeing the light bulb turn on as they learn and question a topic.

In her eight years of teaching, she doesn’t feel that she has done anything really great, but she cares for her students.

Clarke has been active in her neighborhood, with those around her, and at church. Last year ,she even took in a family for four months after their home was badly damage by a hailstorm.

As she has gotten older, she finds herself having more time to spend with those around her, giving of herself where she is needed, and developing close bonds with those in her neighborhood and church.

Clarke said she has shared meals, activities and vacations with her close knit neighborhood.

Teaching from the heart, Clarke said she loves seeing the look in her students’ eyes when they understand something. She’s consistently concerned about their well-being and development, even outside of her classroom.

Clarke visits the neighborhoods where her students live, finds out what is going on in their lives that might be affecting their school life. She helps them understand their work, even the technology that some students don’t have.

“They move me to care,” said Clarke.

Another method she uses is see one, teach one, do one. Children need to see it, they need to do it, and they also need to be able to teach it, said Clarke. This is also good for teachers when learning new things, she said.

Clarke characterized standardized testing is an issue in public education. There’s positive and negative with it, she said. It promotes teaching to the test and doesn’t measure real world learning. She’s not sure it’s the best use of education.

She feels testing is almost a necessary evil. That there has to be something, but she isn’t sure the way it is being done right now, is the way it should be done.

She also feels the test shows some accountability, which is something that needs to be done. Teachers should be accountable for what is done in the classroom. Right now it is the best solution, she said.

Student progress should be assessed with a variety of methods though, not just a test, she said.

She said teachers should care about each other, care about their students and have their own community with each other. Teachers need to have a positive learning environment and learn from each other.

“Be able to laugh. Have a good time,” Clarke advised to other educators. “Enjoy what your doing.”

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